Statements and Speeches
Remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer
on Elections Canada's Main Estimates 2019–2020
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
May 2, 2019
Check against delivery
Thank you Mr. Chair.
It is a pleasure to be before the Committee today to present Elections Canada's main estimates and plans for 2019–20.
This appearance also provides the opportunity to update committee members on the implementation of Bill C-76 and our final preparations for the general election.
Elections Canada's Main Estimates
Today, the Committee is voting on Elections Canada's annual appropriation, which is $39.2 million and represents the salaries of some 440 indeterminate positions. This is an increase of $8.4 million over last year's appropriation. As I indicated when I last appeared before this Committee, the increase is essentially a rebalancing of the agency's budgets, moving expenses for terms and contract resources out of the statutory authority and into the annual appropriation in order to fund indeterminate resources. It does not represent any spending increase overall.
Combined with our statutory authority, which funds all other expenditures under the Canada Elections Act, our 2019-20 Main Estimates total $493.2 million.
Cost of the 43rd General Election
This includes $398 million for the October 21st election, which represents the direct election delivery costs that will be incurred in this fiscal year.
Our most recent estimates indicate that total expenditures for the 43rd GE will be some $500 million. The expenditures may vary due to various factors such as the duration of the campaign.
I note that while preparing our budgets last fall we had estimated the cost of the election at some $470 million. The difference is mainly due to Bill C-76 ($21M), which had not been passed at the time of preparing our estimates and therefore had not been taken into account.
Implementation of Legislative Change (Bill C-76)
Elections Canada continues to implement Bill C-76 and bring into force its provisions as preparations are completed.
On May 11th, changes brought by Bill C-76 for electors residing outside Canada will also come into force.
The balance of other provisions will come into force in June. From an electoral operation perspective, EC will then be ready to conduct the election with the required Bill C-76 changes. Our applications, training and instructions will have been updated, tested and ready for use.
In terms of regulatory activities, all guidance on political financing will be finalized prior to the beginning of the pre-writ period on June 30th. Leading up to that date, we will continue consulting parties on various products through the opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes process.
The agency is also gearing up to complete the audits of political entity returns following the election. We are expecting increases in the audit work stemming from the new requirements introduced by Bill C-76, notably for third parties, as well as the removal of the $1,000 deposit for candidates.
Despite this increase, we aim to reduce the time required to complete the audit of candidate returns by 30% in order to improve transparency and ensure more timely reimbursements. To achieve this we are implementing a streamlined risk-based audit plan.
A key priority as part of our final preparations is to further improve the quality of the list of electors.
Every year, some three million Canadians move, 300,000 pass away, 100,000 become citizens, and 400,000 turn 18. This translates into 70,000 changes in any given week. To ensure the accuracy of the register, Elections Canada regularly draws on multiple data sources from over 40 provincial and federal bodies as well as from information provided directly by Canadians. This will be facilitated by recent improvements made to our online registration systems to capture non-standard addresses and upload identification documents.
With the enactment of Bill C-76, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is now able to share information about permanent residents and foreign nationals. This provides Elections Canada with a much needed tool to address the long-recognized issue of non-citizens appearing on the register of electors. This spring, we expect to remove approximately 100,000 records as a result.
We have also recently written to 250,000 households where we believe we have records that need correction. Efforts to improve the accuracy of the list of electors will continue and be supported by a new pre-writ campaign to encourage Canadians to verify and update their information.
On April 18th, the agency concluded an extensive 3-week election simulation exercise in 5 electoral districts.
The simulation allowed us to test our business processes, handbooks and IT systems in a setting that closely resembles an actual general election. Election workers were hired, trained and participated in simulated voting exercises which factored changes introduced by Bill C-76. The exercise also gave some of our new returning officers an opportunity to observe local office operations and exchange with more experienced colleagues.
Overall, the simulation exercise confirmed our readiness level while identifying a few areas where we need to refine some of our procedures, instructions and applications. These final adjustments will be made this spring.
With the assurances provided by our simulation and most recent by-elections, I have a high level of confidence in our state of readiness and our tools to deliver the election.
From an electoral security perspective, the agency is engaged this spring in a number of scenario exercises with the Commissioner of Canada Elections and Canada's lead security agencies to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear and that proper governance is established to coordinate our actions.
As indicated in the Communications Security Establishment's most recent report, Canada is not immune to cyber threats and disinformation. Since the last general election a wide range of organizations including Elections Canada have worked to adapt to the new context and strengthen Canada's democratic resilience in the face of these evolving threats. Elections Canada and its security partners approach the next general election with a new level of vigilance and awareness and an unprecedented level of cooperation.
General elections are one of Canada's largest civic events.
Our role is to provide trusted and accessible voting services to 27 million electors in 338 electoral districts. It involves hiring and training over 300,000 poll workers deployed in over 70,000 polls across the country.
Our returning officers have been continually engaged in the improvements planned for the next election. I had an opportunity to meet with our field personnel across Canada. I can assure you they are engaged, ready and resolved in their commitment to provide electors and candidates with outstanding service.